When our church posted abuse-awareness posters in all the women’s restrooms I wasn’t sure what the response would be. But, then the wife of one of my small group leaders noticed a disconcerting dynamic among one of the couples in their small group. She referenced that poster and she and her husband intervened to care for this couple. Thankfully, the situation was not as bad as it could have been and the couple responded well, but the small group leaders were the perfect people to step in and prevent things from getting worse. Small Groups are a prime place for effective Biblical Counseling within the local church.
Counseling is often less formal than we think it is. We all, if we are godly people and good friends are regularly counseling those in our circle of influence. You have friends who come to you seeking wisdom on marital problems, parenting challenges, or relational conflict. You have loved ones who are asking for encouragement in the midst of their sorrow or depression. You have family who want someone to cry with them, pray with them, and walk alongside them in difficulty and illness. This is all a type of counseling. Often we are more like counselors than we realize in our relationships, and this is why small groups are a great place for counseling to happen.
Think of the nature of crisis. It’s sort of like falling off of a cliff. At the bottom of the cliff is an Emergency Medical team. They are trained and equipped and ready for action. They will step in when things have fallen apart and someone is in desperate need. They are ready to help and will seek to help someone heal, recover, and rebuild their lives after the fall. But imagine if we had guard rails at the top of the cliff, designed to stop people from plummeting over the edge. Small Groups serve as these types of guard rails. Rarely does someone just jump off the cliff, or slip over the edge. They are usually inching closer and closer to the precipice over time. Someone who is engaged in their lives should be able to see this and intervene before it’s too late. Of course, there is no guarantee that an individual won’t still go over the edge, but we can help a lot more people effectively at the top of the cliff than we can at the bottom. And those who are interacting with that individual on a consistent basis, who know their struggles, needs, attitudes, and temptations can more readily intervene. Small Groups capitalize on the relational dynamics of the group to help serve as guard rails in crisis prevention. Like the couple having marital problems, a small group team of husband and wife were able to step in and speak directly to some of the disconcerting behavior that was developing. They were able to intervene and help alleviate a problem before it became a full-blown crisis.
Furthermore, Small Groups, serve to help people learn the basics of discipleship which in turn equips them to better handle their struggles and temptations. Small Groups can tailor discipleship to the individual and focus on helping them to grow where they are weakest in their Christian walk. As small group leaders learn about each individual they are uniquely qualified to speak to that individuals weaknesses and help them to grow. This is crisis prevention of a different sort, but it is crisis prevention all the same. It is the kind of formative help that makes people aware of the guard rails.
Lastly, Small Groups serve as a guard rail through accountability. In my own small group I had shared, for several weeks, the same general prayer request regarding my own selfishness. I was surprised, and grateful, when one of our guys stopped me and asked me what I was going to do different the next week to address this issue. It was a timely and important rebuke. I had asked for prayer but done nothing to address my own heart on the matter. His challenge was what I needed, and knowing that I was going to have to report back was the impetus to help me push through my own resistance. The accountability served as a guard rail to keep me back from the edge of sinful indulgence.
Small Groups are a great place for Biblical Counseling to take place. It may not be the same sort of formal counseling that happens at the bottom of the cliff, but it is just as valuable in the body of Christ. This is why our agenda this year at CBC is to equip all our Small Group leaders in the basics of soul care. Starting September 7th we will be teaching an 11 week course on the subject. We will be utilizing Garrett Higbee’s Uncommon Community DVD curriculum and doing some practice exercises together as a class. I am looking forward to our time of growth and equipping and encourage anyone, small group leaders, small group members, counselors, or simply godly Christians, to take this course. Sign-up in the Gathering Space and purchase your workbook in the bookstore. If you are in a Small Group you are likely already doing more counseling than you realize. Let us help you do it better.